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Why the Smokies Are Smoky (cont’d)

In response to:

Smoke in the Smokies from the April 15, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

It is obvious that Charles Schwartz hasn’t spent much time in the Smokies [NYR, April 15]. Pines, so abundant in much of the Deep South, are uncommon there. Longleaf and slash pine do not occur there at all. The Smokies are covered principally with deciduous broad-leaf hardwoods at the lower elevations and Spruce-Fir forests at the higher elevations. The four kinds of pine which can be found there (Table Mountain, pitch, white, and Virginia) are not important producers of rosin.

The mountains appear smoky because of the transpiration (not evaporation) of billions of gallons of water from the leaves, not turpentine. The Smokies were never an area which produced pitch and rosin in commercial quantities; those areas were and are further south and much nearer the coast, where longleaf pine historically occurred in nearly pure stands, and where slash pine has now been planted.

The best study of the flora of the Smokies is R.H. Whitaker’s “Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains,” 1956, Ecological Monographs 26:80 pp.

Robert W. Loftin

University of North Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

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